Researchers at biotech firm Morphogenesis have identified marine microorganisms that will yield critical pharmaceuticals such as anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics from seafloor sediment samples harvested by Odyssey

Morphogenesis Inc., a leading biotechnology and cancer-treatment research and development firm, has discovered substances with pharmaceutical properties beneficial to mankind from seafloor sediment samples that were recovered from the ocean bottom by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. and Recovery Limited Partnership.

“Equally as exciting as the discovery of Gold Rush-era treasure is the rich source of pharmaceutical treasure that can be uncovered,” commented Michael J.P. Lawman, PhD., president and co-founder of Tampa-based Morphogenesis Inc.

Dr. Lawman and his group have analyzed deep-ocean sand, mud and rock samples recovered from wreck sites by the renowned undersea exploration company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, and are in the process of identifying bacterial isolates and studying them for potential drugs that target cancer and infectious diseases in both human and animal bio-pharmaceutical fields.

“We are obviously thrilled with the successful recovery of gold and silver, but the sediment we are recovering and delivering to Morphogenesis could hold its own valuable treasure,” said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey executive vice president and general counsel. “We are proud to provide these samples to Morphogenesis as their research and advancements in treatments for cancer and other diseases are amazingly impressive.”

“In the harsh, forbidding deep-ocean environment, organisms are constantly evolving their own defense mechanisms, metabolic pathways and propagative systems in order to survive,” observed Dr. Lawman. “Their unique capability and highly-evolved processes applied to sustain life under enormous pressure in extreme darkness and temperatures hold many secrets to improving the health and quality of life for humans and animals alike.”

Dr. Lawman, an internationally recognized biotechnology researcher, is co-inventor on more than 30 U.S. and worldwide patents and has an extensive peer-reviewed publication record.

The sediment samples provided to Morphogenesis this month were recovered by Odyssey from the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamship which sank in 7,200 feet of water during a hurricane 160 miles off South Carolina in September of 1857. Odyssey is currently conducting an archaeological excavation of the shipwreck site in conjunction with a larger science program under contract for the Receiver of Recovery Limited Partnership.

Seafloor sediment samples were also previously recovered from the ocean floor adjacent to the debris field around the wreck of the SS Republic, a Civil War-era side-wheel steamship that sank in 1,700 feet of water in a hurricane in October, 1865 and discovered by Odyssey in 2003.

“Our R&D program with Odyssey Marine Exploration is particularly exciting because the treasure trove of products to be discovered is virtually infinite and has an unlimited potential to improve the quality of life on earth,” declared Dr. Lawman.

Dr. Lawman provided the following general points to emphasize the importance of this research and development.

  • Marine biotechnology is a growing field that involves discovery and application of processes/products derived from marine organisms.
  • Over 70% of the earth's surface is covered by oceans which contain 95% of the earth's biosphere and encompasses 34 of the 36 living phyla described so far.
  • As of 2001, marine natural product chemists have determined the chemical structures of over 13,000 novel compounds with different natural products entering FDA sponsored clinical trials for cancers, infectious diseases, pain reduction and treatment of inflammatory diseases.
  • Since the discovery of penicillin in 1929, more than 10,000 marine bacterial metabolites have been shown to have biological activity, and 100 of these are in use today as antibiotics and anti-cancer agents.
  • In 2010, it was reported that the clinical pipeline included 13 marine-derived compounds that are in FDA Phase I, Phase II or Phase III clinical trials.
  • The preclinical pipeline continues to supply several hundred novel marine compounds every year.



Andrew Bowen, APR, for Morphogenesis 813-374-3735

Liz Shows, for Odyssey Marine Exploration 813-876-1776 x 2335

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